Brazile Explains Credentials Committee

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March 30, 2008 1:34 p.m.

Donna Brazile was on This Week this morning and explained how the credentials committee works. If she’s right, and I’m sure Brazile knows this stuff like the back of her hand, it’s even worse for Clinton than I thought. According to Brazile, in addition to the twenty-five members of the Committee appointed by Howard Dean, the rest of the committee will be made up of 3 members apiece from each state. In other words, it works sort of like the senate, where all states are counted equally, regardless of their size. Since Obama has won far more states than Clinton, that should mean he has a decisive majority on the credentials committee.

One thing Brazile didn’t mention explicitly is just how the individual state delegations choose which delegates to put on the committee. The logic of Brazile’s statement suggests it’s done by majority vote within those delegations. But again, she didn’t say that explicitly. So I’m curious to hear more.

Late Update: Here’s a post Greg Sargent wrote up back in February which suggests that Brazile’s actually wrong on this — that the members are allocated to states through a formula that mixes population and past Democratic ballot performance, which is what I’d expect. A number of readers have said the same thing. Brazile is such a creature of the inner-mechanisms of the Democratic party that I have a hard time believing she’d be off on this. But perhaps she is. We’ll update you when we have this nailed down.

Later Update: Here’s an excerpt from a piece Tad Devine and Anthony Corrado wrote at pollingreport.com. It suggests an even more complicated set of rules and factors but one that seems to end up in a similar place to what Brazile suggests …

The committee with jurisdiction over the seating of delegates — the Credentials Committee — is one of the three standing committees to the national convention (the other two being the Rules Committee and Platform Committee). It will be composed largely of members elected on the basis of the results of state primaries and caucuses. In this inside fight, should it come to that, Senator Obama enjoys an important advantage. In total, 161 of the 186 members of each standing committee are selected from states, and 20 states and the District of Columbia have only one representative on each of the committees.

By winning so many states and thereby controlling so many state delegations, the Obama campaign can weight their selections towards the Credentials and Rules Committees, the places where a procedural or credentials battle will be fought in the maneuvering prior to the convention. By picking Rules and Credentials seats in state after state where his campaign will be entitled to 2 out of 3 standing committee seats, Obama can gain an important and possibly decisive advantage in the pre-convention skirmishing.

The other player in this unfolding drama is Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean. Under the rules, the chairman can make 25 at-large appointments on each standing committee. In the past, the party chairman’s at-large appointments have been worked out with the putative nominee’s camp, so that they effectively became the choice of the nominee, not the chairman. In 2008, the chairman announced his selections early in the year and the nominees were approved at the January 11th DNC Executive Committee meeting. Thus, even under a scenario where Obama’s campaign moves forcefully to put as many of their appointments as possible on the Rules and Credentials Committees, Chairman Dean’s appointees may still hold the balance of power. So the chairman may be able to exert enormous influence over whether or not delegates from Florida and Michigan are represented on the convention floor.

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